Monday, December 2

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates by Georg Weissel 1642 trans. Catherine Winkworth, 1855.

Fling wide the portals of your heart;
make it a temple set apart
from earthly use for heaven’s employ,
adorned with prayer and love and joy.

1Cor. 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

The second verse of Weissel's hymn Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates moves to the metaphor of our hearts as the place where God abides.  As astonishing as it may sound, Jesus confirms that God will abide in us [e.g. John 15:1-11].  God is as close and as intimate as our own inner temple of the heart.  It should be noted that this use of the word "heart" references not just a place of emotional import - but includes the full range of attributes we, in modern parlance, might call the "mind."  The biblical "heart" is the place of will, and of conscience, and of emotion too.
One of my favorite descriptions of prayer comes from the Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse:

"To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you."

Our Advent journey is a time for frequent prayer.  When we pray we are acknowledging the presence of God in our life and are reminding ourselves that we are not self-made and are not self-sufficient.  Prayer corrects our posture toward the Lord, by putting us back in touch with the love and joy which God offers.  Indeed, in John chapter 15 where Jesus speaks of God making God's home in us, he concludes:

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Daily Collect:
Ever-present and all-seeing Lord, you choose to abide in us.  Your presence in our lives is meant to bring us to love and joy.  Help us who are committed to a transformed discipleship to fling wide the portals of our hearts that we may become a walking, talking temple of the Holy Spirit - "adorned with prayer and love and joy."  Amen.

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Paul Lang